Border official: Canadians entering US risk lifetime ban for marijuana use

Border official: Canadians entering US risk lifetime ban for marijuana use
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Canadians who use marijuana or work in and invest in the marijuana industry risk a lifetime ban on travel to the United States, a U.S. official said this week.

Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner for the Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Office of Field Operations, told Politico for a report published on Thursday that Canadians who work in the industry and travel into the U.S. could face a lifetime ban.

Canada is about to become the second country in the world and the world’s first major industrialized nation to legalize recreational marijuana, but the drug remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

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“Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there — or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask,” Owen told the publication.  

If CBP inspection dogs are able to detect marijuana residue inside a car, Canadians can be subjected to further questioning at the border. Owen said if travelers lie about past drug use during questioning, that’s “fraud and misrepresentation, which carries a lifetime ban.”

If a traveler admits to past use of any drugs that are illegal in the U.S., such as marijuana, he or she will be found inadmissible. 

Owen said that travelers are typically allowed the opportunity for a “voluntary withdraw” from a border crossing but noted records are kept whether a traveler enters the U.S. or not and such a traveler will not be able to return to the U.S.

However, Owen, who oversees U.S border operations, said the traveler would still be able to apply for a waiver from the lifetime ban, which can takes months to be processed and costs $585.

Owen also said Canadians who tell border agents they work in the marijuana industry risk not being permitted to enter the country. “If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” Owen said. 

Canadians who say they invest in marijuana companies would also be unable to enter the country, as the U.S. doesn’t “recognize that as a legal business,” Owen said.

“Facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in U.S. states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect an individual’s admissibility to the U.S.,” Owen continued. 

In the U.S., recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., while medical marijuana is legal in more than two dozen states.

Canadian lawmakers voted to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide in June.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said marijuana will be legal across the country starting Oct. 17.